The award-winning young writer of the werewolf tale ‘Bareback’ returns with a new intelligent novel about a fantastical land/ocean power struggle. Initially, it’s challenging to wrap your head around the notion of Landsmen (humans) and Deepsmen (mermaids) and their worlds - replete with a fully realised potted history, but if you persist the story transpires to be an enthralling one. ‘In Great Waters’ is about a power-grabbing bastard boy Henry (half man, half deepman) determined to claim the throne from the inbred, crumbling royal Delamere clan. The story begins with the birth and infancy of a boy born into water called Whistle who struggles to fit in with his underwater brethren and doesn’t understand why he is weak, rejected and ultimately pushed onto dry land and abandoned by his mother. He is spotted and taken in by Allard - a scholar, who names him Henry and enfolds him into civilisation. Hidden from view Allard keeps him as he grows, knowing he could be executed if discovered - as sheltering bastards is illegal, and he tells him about the royal family and gives him a toy crown, which Henry fixates on. The boy sees things very black and white, and resists this other world with all his might and fundamentally isn’t very likeable, because essentially he seems mistrustful and cold. He lashes out, hates clothes, is terrified of corners and dislikes being handled, but these are natural reactions to a fish out of water, so to speak. Whitfield knows how to spin a yarn, and though traditionally you need sympathetic characters on some intrinsic level to empathise with and enjoy a good read, this novel doesn’t really give you that with Henry, but one can almost respect her for doing that. She challenges you to embrace him as he learns emotional nuances from dispassionate observations and draws intelligent conclusions about the stupidity of man. Henry takes in what makes sense and rejects what he sees as folly. This novel makes you work, but in doing so you are rewarded with an original tale that unfolds and grips as the characters are so alien and foreign to modern life, while having essentially human concerns of needing love, security and wondering whom to trust. It’s almost a lesson in learning to live with your enemy, to transcend superficial differences, and the realisation that the savage worldview isn’t necessarily the wrong one. Whitfield doesn’t give you an easy ride, though you do see characters evolve and grow, and not just with Henry as he learns the notion of friendship, but with the Delamere’s too. We see the blue faced, dull looking Princess Anne stumbling through life then being forced to think on her feet and embrace her birthright, when to her horror her world crumbles and everything is threatened. Power has a price and actions are calculated, this tale has no innocent bystanders, and the story reminds you that regardless of your desire to swim away from the world, duty demands we rise to the occasion and show what we are made off. ‘In Great Waters’ is part dynasty and part murder mystery – but it’s the creation of two vividly rich alternative worlds laced with period dialogue - and then the oddness of modern, blunt words like ‘fuck’ and ‘bastard’ interspersed in Henry’s speaking that take it out of the stereotypically fantastical realm and into something more plausible even. A little slow to begin with and requiring quiet focus to follow, Whitfield’s second offering will however grip you to the last page, to the extent you will be sorry to see it end. ‘In Great Waters’ is out on now, priced £12.99 published by Jonathan Cape. To find out more about the writer visit: www.kitwhitfield.com